'I love free-falling': From Mount Everest to Antarctica, the sky's the limit for Indonesian female skydiver
JAKARTA: The sky's the limit for Naila Novaranti, Indonesia’s female skydiver who has parachuted on seven continents in the world, including challenging locations such as Antarctica and Mount Everest.
A former secretary, the 39-year-old is an accredited athlete by the United States Parachute Association (USPA) and also a skydiving instructor who has trained numerous local as well as foreign military and civilians.
“I love free-falling because you can literally do any movement without worrying you’re going to bump into a window, glass or anything. That’s what I really love. And I love the sky, it’s really cool,” Novaranti told CNA.
She has won numerous competitions and completed skydives on seven continents - North America, South America, Asia, Europe, Australia, Africa and Antarctica. Her stints earned her a recognition by the Indonesian World Records Museum last year.
The athlete shared that skydiving across the globe is not something everyone can do because one needs to have a recommendation from a more experienced skydiver prior to a stint, especially in places like Mount Everest and Antarctica.
“Antarctica and Mount Everest are the most challenging ones because of the weather. So I was very lucky to be able to do that within a short time,” she said, adding that she jumped from Mount Everest on her birthday in November 2018 and skydived in Antarctica in December 2019.
Mount Everest was especially tough because she had never climbed a mountain before. She also could not stand the cold weather.
“You have to walk. It’s not like you just land up there. You have to walk to the top.”
“They said if I was not strong, I could always go back. But for me? Turning around, not a chance.”
The sharp cliffs at Mount Everest also meant skydivers could not afford to land off target.
“But it’s doable. It depends on how much you want it. I really wanted it, that’s why I didn’t want to turn around.”
The situation was particularly challenging as she encountered a problem with her parachute due to the strong wind when she jumped. She prayed hard and luckily she landed safely.
“Phew, I was glad to be home when I landed (in Indonesia).
“The doctor (waiting for me at Mount Everest) said, ‘We thought we’re going to go home with a body bag’ because the wind was all over," she said.
Having conquered Mount Everest, Novaranti felt Antarctica was easier.
“Everything was so easy. Well, it was not that easy because of the weather ... But you can literally see everything from the top and (your view is) wide, it’s not like hills. It’s not like you’re going to fall from cliffs.
“It’s flat. You just have to be confident ... and put in the effort to be extra safe.”
SECRETARY TURNED PARACHUTE SELLER
Novaranti became a skydiver by accident.
When she finished high school in 2000, she studied to become a secretary and later worked as one in an oil company.
In 2009, she moved to a parachute company and had to sell parachutes to civilians and the military.
“I was not a skydiver. I hadn’t been jumping then. So they were like, ‘Wow, you have guts to sell this to us because obviously, you’re not a skydiver. What do you know about parachutes?’
“It struck me that it was actually a bit of an insult for a woman. It’s like: ‘You’re a female, what do you know?’” she said.
Her manager offered to let her learn skydiving and when she was in the US on her monthly work visit to the company’s headquarter, she gave it a try and loved it despite her initial fears.
“Everyone is initially scared, I was scared too. They had to chuck me out of the aircraft many times. It was between me and the door.
“But once I was out there, I was really happy,” she said.
“I felt excited, mixed with fear but I really wanted to do it. But the scary part to me was the landing because it felt like the ground was coming to you really close,” Novaranti said.
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After her 10th jump, which she did in a stretch of four days, she started parachuting solo and gained confidence.
“I love it. Solo is better because you fall slower than if you are jumping tandem. And you are in full control of yourself if you follow all the rules.”
It marked the beginning of Novaranti’s quest skydiving in various places around the world.
SPORTY MOTHER OF THREE
During the last 12 years, Novaranti has made more than 7,000 jumps while still working at the parachute company.
She has always been a sporty person, growing up playing football, basketball and badminton, thus she is physically fit.
However, it does not mean that she never had an accident.
“I have had all sorts of injuries, but I just keep on going,” she laughed, adding that she had suffered spinal injuries and had broken her arms.
She admitted that those accidents happened because she wanted to try something different and did not jump according to the rules.
Fortunately, her husband, who is her student, is supportive of her passion and they even skydive together. They have three boys aged between 11 and 18.
Novaranti would usually research the requirements silently prior to her trip and plan her journey carefully. Only when she has achieved her goal, she would talk about it.
“I don’t like to be number two. If I have to, at least I have given everything I could,” she said.
RARE SPORT IN INDONESIA
Due to COVID-19, Novaranti cannot travel abroad to go skydiving.
It is quite challenging to parachute within Indonesia as well. The sport is also not common in the archipelago, hence there are not many drop zones for them to land, not to mention the expensive skydiving licence.
“We need more support. If the government is open to this, foreigners can come and that would bring in money.”
Like everyone else, Novaranti hoped that the COVID-19 pandemic would soon end.
“What I really want is to have our own drop zones here so we don’t depend on other countries to train people and we can put more champions out there.
“If everyone has a chance to skydive, it would be easier for us, it would also be easier for me to (train the) next generation of skydivers,” she said.
Read this story in Bahasa Indonesia here.